Few things say ‘It’s Christmas!’ better than sighting the bespectacled Noddy Holder in a billow of dry ice, or the first sighting of the nostalgia-inducing Coca Cola ’Holidays are coming’ television adverts or an animated young boy walking, to the tune of Aled Jones, walking hand in hand through the air with his plump faced friend, The Snowman.
When Channel 4 starts airing that classic, that’s when you know the festive season has well and truly arrived.
(Although Welsh singer Aled Jones is often credited for the film's song Walking in the Air, it was actually choirboy Peter Autrey who recorded the film's original version.)
And for Penguin Publishing’s recently developed licensing division - with the even more recent acquisition of Snowman Enterprises Limited under its belt- these are exactly the kind of synonymous thought patterns it is happy to evoke. And no more so than with the recent production and sequel to the classic animation, The Snowman and The Snowdog.
There's snow business like show business
A short animated film following the adventures of a child and his snow-companions, The Snowman and The Snowdog, was created in 2012 to mark to the 30th anniversary of the original Christmas tale.
And while compared to its mighty oak of a forefather it is but an emerging sapling, it is a sapling with a licensing portfolio that is already flourishing on an international level.
Having already partnered with UK broadcaster Channel 4 for the new animation, and teamed up with Copyrights Group to drive plush and collectables, Penguin is celebrating a year of success.
“What we have been able to achieve [in partnership with Copyrights Group] is nothing short of amazing,” Penguin’s head of licensing and consumer products, Susan Bolsover tells Licensing.biz.
“We have grown our licensee base here in the UK and brought on board new categories as well as appointing new agents in key markets such as the US, Canada and Japan.
“And, we have secured new broadcasting partners, both for the original Snowman film and The Snowman and The Snowdog alongside new foreign edition publishing partners.”
© Snowman Enterprises Ltd. 2012?. Registered No. 01603770 England. Registered Office: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL
Having published the original story by Raymond Briggs in 1978, acquiring Snowman Enterprises Limited marked a triumph for Penguin in 2012, a year pivotal in building working relationships for the brand.
These relationships include the recent appointment of Joester Loria Group as the property’s licensing agent for North America.
Now with 30 licensees for the Snowman franchise in the UK alone, and a host of international broadcasters scooping up the animations, Penguin is on solid ground to explore new global licensing avenues.
“We currently have 30 licensees in the UK and around ten internationally. We are really looking to develop and grow our international presence for 2014 and beyond as the Snowman and the Snowdog film is sold to an increasing number of markets,” says Bolsover.
“We are particularly excited to see how things develop in Japan and North America. Now for 2014 our big focus areas are apparel and toys.”
With Rainbow Designs already onboard for Snowdog plush and Suncrest offering a range of nursery gifting in M&S, The Snowman franchise is undeniably an iconic and intrinsic element to the festive period, but what is it about these properties that lend themselves so well to the world of toys and apparel?
Bolsover believes that it is the concoction of charm, magic and the ‘embodiment of Christmas’ that will drive the franchise successfully into the new categories in the coming years.
“The Snowman is absolutely iconic,” she says. “The way he looks and moves makes him unique and instantly recognisable. And his new companion, Snowdog is instantly distinguishable and shares the same unique look and feel.
“These creations have a magical quality about them that evoke warmth, a sense of happiness and the belief that magic can happen at Christmas.
“Therefore we want to broaden our current apparel offering and in particular focus on the baby, toddler and infant areas. We are also looking at the toy area and how we can really bring our Snowman and Snowdog to life.”
A life of its own
And if ’bringing the characters to life’ is the firm’s mission statement for the future of the brand, then its various marketing activities, including an album release in collaboration with Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows, a global DVD release and a charity campaign with the British Red Cross, suggests Penguin is right on track.
(Ex-Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows partnered up with Ilan Eshkeri to create the film's soundtrack - the pair will be out on a promotional tour for the upcoming album.)
And the list doesn’t end there, with further promotional activities encompassing the likes of garden centre craft days, travel company partnerships and (of course) new developments in confectionery.
“The Garden Centre Group will be hosting treasure hunts and Christmas decoration making workshops across its 130 outlets while Thomas Cook will be engaging with in-store and online activities, as well as a themed cover for its first in-flight magazine,” adds Bolsover.
“We are also lucky enough to have Thorntons who have been fantastic with their creative marketing plans - so get ready for the giant touring chocolate Snowdog.”
This snow won't melt
But this is just the beginning. Bolsover has big plans for the Snowman franchise and a desire to grow the brand in a manner that will engage fans across all ages.
She says: “We want to continue to grow the brand in a way that makes sense and for The Snowman and The Snowdog to be a family classic, a real tradition, but to also offer consumers, fans and retailers something new and refreshed every year.
“Clearly this is a classic children’s brand, but we also know it is enjoyed just as much by adults. Therefore we need to ensure we are reaching this wide audience by every means possible.
“We have plans to continue expanding the brand globally and to bring some Christmas magic to every corner of the globe, through TV, consumer products, online and in theatres.
“It would be great that if in five years time, The Snowman brand became so synonymous with Christmas that by October people were wondering, ‘What are they going to do this year?’ That would be a dream come true.”